When you see or hear the word “mindfulness,” what is the first thing that comes to, well, mind? It could be consideration for others and yourself, or having an awareness of what is happening around you. Maybe it’s focusing your thoughts to calm your mind. Or you may just think of meditation as mindfulness.
Don’t worry. This isn't a test. There are no wrong answers with this, just a curiosity. While mindfulness practices are getting a lot more attention these days, you have probably been doing the things that make up this routine for years. What’s important is to support lowering your stress, relaxing your mind and giving yourself a chance to just be in the moment and not give into the overwhelm of life.
Today, we’d like to share a bit of insight into the importance of mindfulness and just why it is one of the most meaningful things you can do for yourself everyday.
But, first things first.
What is “mindfulness”?
Simply put, “mindfulness” is about living in the moment. There are three basic goals behind being mindful. Having the intention to foster awareness by bringing yourself back to the now each time you lose your focus and find yourself scattered. The second is paying attention to what is happening in the moment, which goes hand in hand with creating that awareness. From a mindfulness aspect, this means recognizing thoughts, feelings and sensations as they come up and looking at them, acknowledging them. And finally, taking on a non-judgemental and kind attitude toward people, situations, and yourself as well as an open curiosity to discover more.
When you are more in tune with yourself and the world around you — i.e. being mindful of these things — you feel better, mentally and emotionally. That focus on the here and now gives you a way to approach negativity from a place of awareness and acceptance. It allows you to just be without the baggage of expectation and bias.
All that sounds pretty esoteric and existential, we know. But work with us a moment as we share the “how” of mindfulness to help you reach a state of clarity and calm.
How do we spark “mindfulness” ?
There are a few ways you can engage in a mindfulness practice. It doesn’t have to be formal at all. Meditation, for example, is simply focused breathing and clearing your mind to take on a posture of mindfulness. With benefits long documented from the National Institute of Health to the Mayo Clinic to universities, this ancient practice has been shown to:
- Reduce stress
- Help manage depression
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce memory loss
- Provide mental clarity
- Improve sleep (we LOVE that)
- Create more empathy and kindness
And a whole lot more.
Engaging in physical activities encourages mindfulness. You can’t perform a sport well if your mind is all over the place. That idea of being in the moment, focusing your energy and thought, and “being like water” (thank you, Bruce Lee) all come from having awareness and accessing it over and over.
Yoga, tai chi, budokon, and aikido are among the martial arts most associated with encouraging mindfulness. Riding a bike, walking, and swimming are physical activities that lend themselves most readily to centering your mind. The truth is, however, that any physical activity can promote mindfulness. If you monitor your breath and focus more on the movement and your mind in your actions rather than perfecting your skill, you are in a practice.
If you simply want to engage in mindfulness wherever, whenever, here are three simple tips for how to do that anywhere, anytime.
Be in the experience
As Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Smell the air outside, listen to the sounds, see the birds, and the trees. Let’s say you’re in your office, notice the carpet on the floor, the color of your desk, or the murmuring of conversations down the hall. When you eat, slow down, taste your food, smell the aromas, and take the time to truly enjoy every aspect of the dining experience. The point here is to let yourself be right there in this moment and experience it, feel it.
Enjoy the little things
We have a tendency to pay more attention to or seek out moments that are grand and potentially life-changing. Who can blame us, right? They make an obvious impact. Simple, small moments or experiences are just as important and actually require more mindful recognition, however. They slow our brain down because we put more intention into recognizing and enjoying those simple pleasures. A cold bed on a hot night, a favorite song on the radio, the smell of fresh baked bread. Take a few minutes to celebrate and enjoy those precious little moments by identifying and acknowledging them.
Be good to yourself
Give yourself a break. We are our hardest critics and in the end, we are the only “us” we will ever have. Be your own best friend and be very generous with yourself. This doesn’t mean you go out and blow your paycheck on every little material thing. The best gift you can give yourself is to love yourself and showing it. Set aside time to relax and indulge in the things that bring you joy. Also do those little things that show how much you care for yourself — laugh, get a good night’s sleep, eat a delicious meal. Step up for yourself by showering yourself with the love and attention you so frequently reserve for everyone else in your life.
Now is all there is
You cannot be anywhere but where you are at that moment. Your brain may wander to the past or the future, but it is only in our present that we live. And we don’t mean in that “La Dolce Vita” “live life to the fullest” way. We truly cannot be anywhere else but where we are at any given time. Until time travel or the ability to be multiple places at once happens, we must learn to accept it, embrace it, and enjoy being in it.
Oprah Winfrey said, “Whatever has happened to you in your past has no power over this present moment, because LIFE IS NOW.”
Life has a lot of obstacles and burdens along the way. Our mind gets overwhelmed with so much input and chaos that our thoughts can become muddled and confused. That raises our blood pressure, gives us stress, and makes us feel tense and unhappy. When we take the time to be mindful and present, slow our breath, let our senses come to life, hug ourselves and tell us it’s all going to be alright, it is like sweeping out the cobwebs and cleaning out your brain. And in that moment, we can just be without any pressure or worry. Because life is now. Not tomorrow, not yesterday. Right now.
And, if “just being” means you are living La Dolce Vita to its absolute fullest? Awesome.